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  • Writer's pictureDon Francis

One, Two, Three…

Back in August, this newsletter reported on the newly installed trail counters. This addition was made possible by a grant from the Robert & Marian Graham Community Fund of the Platteville Community Fund. Now, the PCA uses technology to gather trail usage data. We also have five months of data, and we are starting to learn more about the use of the Rountree Branch Trail.


No surprise here, but when the weather isn’t good, the trail usage goes down. Whether it’s extreme heat, storms, bitter cold or snow, folks will decide to not take a walk, jog and bike ride on the trail. You didn’t need a trail counter to tell you that, but the data backs it up. Plus weekends see more usage, and the days around a holiday can see a jump in either direction. However, the Monster Dash in October uncovered a small imperfection with this new tool.


Monthly usage totals (Blue is Delta 3 trailhead, Black is by the gazebo, & Green is north of Mineral Street)

These infrared counters send an invisible beam across the trail, and when the ray is broken up by someone crossing in front of it, that’s counted as a click. Normally, we would consider that click equaling a person. That is not always the case.


For the Monster Dash, we were able to isolate the participants that crossed two trail counters. Since we knew the amount of people participating in this fun run/walk, in the 10 o’clock hour, we had a good guess at what the trail counters should count. However, the count numbers were below the number of participants, and we know why. People walk next to each other. Makes sense, right? And this can be at least 25 percent of the time. Unfortunately, since the counters are pointing across the trail at a 90-degree angle, that means it is just registering the one break of the infrared beam. Even if two or three people are walking next to each other, the counter probably only “sees” it as one person going by.


Chart showing two months of data. Notice the uptick on 10/21/23 (Monster Dash day).

Going forward, we know that the data is always showing less than the actual usage. So, it’s very possible that our busiest day of the year, July 17th, where the counter near the gazebo had 343 clicks, was even busier. Using the 25 percent idea, or 25 more for every 100 clicks, then July 17th might have had well over 400 users. 


Trail usage from July 2023 through November 2023

The same idea goes for the least used days, like Friday, October 13th. This was a cold and rainy day, if you recall, when the high school football team played its first game on the new field. For the trail that day, the Delta 3 counter registered 42, the gazebo counted 25, and the Mineral Street clicked 30. However, there’s a 25 percent chance some pairs of folks used the trail, bolstering those counts to more like 52, 30 & 37, respectively.



All this aside, we can see the trail usage in charts and data, and it makes sense instead of just guessing. In the long run, this helps the PCA when we advertise the trail and submit grants.

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